CCP Argent Talks About What Project Aurora Will Be at Launch

As strange as it is to get excited so early about a mobile game, CCP Game’s newly announced Project Aurora hooked me with its classic gameplay mixed with the corporate space opera battles that only an EVE Online game can provide. After playing it for a bit, we sat down with the game’s producer, CCP Argent, to talk about what the game’s true launch will look like and what the future holds during the battle for the center of the galaxy.

[Hardcore Gamer] I’ve been checking out Project Aurora this weekend. Like you said (during the keynote), it’s pre-alpha. It’s a bit laggy right now…

[CCP Argent] Yes, the first line of code was written about 9 months ago. We’re taking a bit of an experiment here, kind of getting it out in front of people, getting people’s hands on it. It was something we wanted to experiment, you know, because we really do want to get the EVE Online audience to feed into what this game can be. We don’t presume to know what it is you guys want from a game on the mobile device. The idea is to get a framework in place, get the feedback and find that out, and drive the game towards a destination.

Oh, I was going to ask if it was because I was on a Samsung Galaxy E and wasn’t sure if (the issue was) you guys were targeting higher end devices. 

It is literally that we haven’t optimized yet. We’re focused on getting all the features in there first of all. There are few hacks we put in there to make it public facing ready. It’s something that we’re definitely going to work on before our next play test. It was better to have the full feature set in there and have a bit of lag than to be missing half of the features. That would be a harder thing to communicate.

I notice, when playing it, that it reminds me a lot of a (browser based game) Tribal Wars that I played in 2006 or 7.

Yeah, there’s a lot of influence that comes from back then. There have been comparisons drawn with strategy games that have been on mobile. Really, where we’ve come from with this is that the team has very fond memories of a lot of the browser based games that we out there at the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Things like Planeteria, Hyperiums, and OGame and all of those kind of games. We feel that that is the kind of area we remember having great times with. The times when we would set our alarm clocks to the middle of the night to send fleets to someone else while they were sleeping. So, really, that is the kind of forefather games to (Project Aurora). We understand that there are other similar games out there. We feel that they’ve almost gone down a different family tree and become something else. We’re aiming for that. We’re aiming for what out own personal spin on what we loved about those games.

Do you guys have a monetization strategy yet?

We know that we want to go free to play with the game. On mobile devices, that is the business model that has proved that, if you want to have a long living, long life game, that is the way to go. We don’t want to bring this out and sunset it in eighteen months to two years. We’ve got a full, five year plus life cycle planned that we want for this game. We want it to be a long living thing that people can build those memories in. When it comes to specific microtransactions, we have a few ideas. Really, it’s one of those vague areas that we want to get the feedback on what’s palatable to this community. Do we go down the route where it’s pure cosmetics or some other method? We don’t have any preconceived ideas, like, this is the way we’re going to monetize this. That’s why the (EVE Vegas pre-alpha) doesn’t have any monetization hooks in. We wanted to work first on the core engagement experience. Make it fun first. Let’s see where the free to play model works with that so it doesn’t stop the fun from happening. It’s early days still.

Are you specifically looking to engage with the EVE Online fanbase specifically?

We basically want to engage with our super enthusiast crowd who can help us then expand it to a larger crowd who probably doesn’t even know EVE Online exists. Maybe they’re only on mobile, or they haven’t had the opportunity to find out what makes EVE Online so great. It’s not like we’re making this game just for EVE Online fans, but we want them to be at the center of everything that we do. Help us to grow our audience and make it larger. It’s about accessibility. We know, with EVE Online, some of the play sessions there are going to require long hours. It’s fully immersive. We know that there are people out there who would enjoy some of the emotional kind of feature set that you get from EVE Online, but at the same time don’t have the time to dedicate to it. A lot of this is being able to deliver an experience to those people and allow us to expand the franchise while, at the same time, providing depth and mastery for the people who do want to go in and play with details and top level features. If EVE veterans aren’t happy with the game, we will need to do something else with it. It’s very much a focus on the EVE Online fanbase first.

When I first logged in, I was put in the Koi Corporation. Are you going to allow people to join whatever corporation they want?

Yeah, absolutely. That is basically a subset of what we had to do with our pre-alpha. We will have the systems where you can have corporations set up. The full suite of inviting, kicking, who’s leaders, who’s officers, that whole system requires a lot of UI work that we just haven’t had time to it all done yet. So, in the version of the game that we’ll be soft launching to the world, there will be a full suite of tools to allow you to manage your corporation however you want to do that.

Good! Because Koi is getting stomped right now. 

Yeah. It’s something that we want to do quite quickly. We’ve already been approached by a few of the corporations in EVE Online saying that, at a future date, we’d love to be involved in this. Asking if it would be possible to import (them) wholesale into the game. We will definitely be looking at getting feedback like that.

The goal of the game is to get to the center of the galaxy. Once they get to the center of the galaxy, what happens?

It’s all about the journey rather than the destination as they always say. The game is all about power and territory. You start off on the outskirts of the galaxy, with certain resources there and certain modules that you can provide for your space station. Soon, you’ll get to a limit where you realize that, in order to improve your ships and space station, you need access to resources that are very scare in the current galaxy. Essentially, at that point, you’ll reach a soft ceiling in that galaxy. You and your corporation will then want to collect your resources, pool them together, win the relic wars, and open the jump gate to move to a different galaxy. There you will see those resources and start to unlock more ships, start to unlock additional resources. It’s very much our idea that right now the game is about that journey to the center. When you actually get there, how the game transfers, is something we’re still deliberating. We want have an Ultimate Battle once you get there between the elite corporations for supremacy. After that, we’re not sure. There’s always a next step. This is our phase one vision for the motivation to play the game. By the time you get there, by no means is the game done for you.

For more insider knowledge from CCP, be sure to read our interviews with CCP Burger about all things EVE Online and Andrew Willans regarding EVE: Valkyrie – Warzone.